We can’t be there in person to help and support you in a moment of crisis, but there are other options available to you if you can’t turn to someone you trust. By giving us your postcode (or one nearby to where you are right now) we can let you know about services in your area. Remember: this moment will pass; you won’t always feel the way you do right now.
If in doubt always call 999.
You can also sign up to Alumina, our online support for mental health and wellbeing here:
Let me tell you what kindness has looked like for me this week.
It’s come in the shape of a takeaway pizza, possibly the first meal I haven’t had to prepare for myself and my family in 9 weeks, gifted to me at a 2m distance by a friend.
It’s come in the form of texts and calls to check I’m ok after hearing some really difficult news.
It’s come from other people in what they’ve said, and what they’ve tried to do for me.
And here’s what kindness to myself has looked like: morning runs alone in the park; coffee; rereading Harry Potter; chocolate; letting myself sit in the sun and stare out the window.
When I think of kindness I think of what it means to be gentle with one another. I think of that quote that gets attributed to lots of different of people (including Bob Dylan’s grandma) – “Always be kind, because everyone you meet is fighting a battle.”
So in this mental health awareness week, when our focus is on kindness I find myself asking – who can I be a little more gentle with?
Kindness connects us to people in a deep and wonderful way. When we are kind to people we can’t help but make them feel like we might be a good, safe person to be around. So kindness builds up trust and makes it feels safer to be together.
And kindness is infectious, I think. If someone has been kind to me I feel more able to be kind to someone else. When I feel touched by something you did, there’s a natural response that leads me to want to make someone else feel good.
So kindness has this amazing energy that connects us together. And it doesn’t get used up, it actually keeps generating more energy as it goes. It even helps me learn how to be kind to myself. If someone has been kind to me – and made me feel lovable, and worth some kindness – it can feel easier to be kind to myself afterwards. And that makes me more likely to reach out towards others.
When we feel bad about ourselves we usually want to isolate ourselves. We put ourselves out of the reach of kindness, believing we don’t deserve it or won’t get it. We punish ourselves, we criticise ourselves. We stay alone. We're more likely to self-harm because we're cut off from the things and people that can help us.
But kindness has the power to reach us there. It can make connection possible again.
I don’t know if what it feels like to think about kindness today. Perhaps you feel starved of it yourself and wonder if it will ever reach you again. Or maybe you feel like you could do something small for someone – a tiny gesture of gentleness and care that will make them feel seen and appreciated.
I hope that if you feel you have it in you, you’ll seize the day and do something kind – even to someone who doesn’t deserve it (remember Bob Dylan’s grandma!).
And if you are the one aching for kindness, if you’re the one who feels alone and beyond the reach of someone’s gentle care, could you let me give you permission to do something kind for yourself today? Call it a way of marking Mental Health Awareness week, a way of casting your stone into the ocean of the world’s indifference in the hope that ripples will come back to you somehow.
Routine. You love it or you hate it. It sucks your soul or saves it. You probably know which is true for you.
But like it or loathe it we're people who like habits and patterns. If you've made you way to selfharmUK it's probably because self-harm is, or has been, a habit you've relied on to help you cope. So you're not a total stranger to routine.
Psychologists (like our good friend Dr Kate Middleton at Mind and Soul Foundation) have been telling us for weeks the routine is going to help us through lockdown. But how do we do that in a way that feels meaningful and helpful rather than just artificial, pointless and soul-sucking?
There are probably some routines being forced on you. School work. Family meals. But that leaves a lot of the day free.
The choices we have can be paralysing. I know that a lot of our choices are curtailed right now, but there are still a bazillion TikToks or YouTube clips we could watch, social media posts to scroll through, and streaming services offering us endless entertainment.
When we're stressed, or dealing with hard emotions like anxiety, grief, fear, anger (and to some extent, we all have those going on right now) we find it harder to make choices - any choices - let alone good ones. It's harder to be rational.
And that's where routine can help us out. With some kind of plan or pattern in place, we don't have to make so many choices. We can structure our time so that we do the things that are good for us but that we're not good at choosing (getting out of the house, if we're allowed; talking to someone; doing something creative).
And routine helps us to escape from the sense that every day and every moment are just blending into one long meaningless blob. (Does anyone else feel like they're living out this story, or is it just me?).
So here are some practical tips from one routine-loving gal, to help you make your own version that does your soul some good.
1. Start with your meals (especially if someone else decides what time they happen), and the time you want to be asleep. If you have to be in online lessons at specific times put them in too. That gives your days a basic shape.
2. Put in a trip outside if you're allowed to. When will you walk the dog, or ride your bike (or roller-skates, or skateboard), or stroll through the neighbourhood? Make a plan so you don't just keep waiting till you feel like it.
3. Think about what things you enjoy and make sure they get some time in your day. I wrote out a list early in lockdown of things that left me feeling good, because I realised I was spending so long looking after everyone else in my house that I wasn't making time for those things and then that was making me grumpy. My list includes reading novels, talking to my best friends, watching romcoms (guilty pleasure), making clothes and doing yoga. What's on your list?
4. It might overlap with your last one, but and a way to connect with someone you like. It might be FaceTiming your mate, calling your nan, chatting with your sister, or messaging your school friends. But connection fires our brains in good ways. And even though it's not the same as being in the room with them, connection still counts for something. So put it in your day.
You don't have to account for every minute or hour in your day. And don't make a super-long super-tight schedule, because you need some margin in it. Others may disrupt it, and you might just hit a wall and need to crash in the middle of the afternoon. But give some shape to your day. Help out your poor, tired brain and give it a break from constant decision making. Help it to forget all that time stretching out ahead of you.
Routine can really help you. We hope you'll find one that works for you.
As I write we're a few weeks into a global pandemic. A few months ago we would have thought that the whole idea of that was a bit loopy. None of us could have imagined how much life was about to change.
I wonder how you're doing? If it seems ok to be at home, or if it has brought you unimaginable levels of anxiety, stress, fear, anger and sadness?
The truth is that we're all grieving right now. It might not always feel like it, but we are. We've all suddenly lost the lives we knew and recognised. With very little warning, everything has changed. We can't see people we love, except through a computer screen. We can't go anywhere except the supermarket and maybe the park once a day. We can't be at school or uni or the places we want to be.
Stuff has been cancelled. Exams we’ve been working towards. Trips we were looking forward to. Parties, proms, weddings, celebrations.
We don’t know when it’s coming back.
And none of us knows how to do this. None of the adults in your life have ever had to do this either.
(You’re wondering now when we’re going to get past all the dark stuff to tell you how to cope).
No-one has a blueprint for how best to survive. How do you manage your self-harming when things have maybe just got more difficult, and it feels harder to cope than ever? How do you get through your anxiety when you are stuck in your room and can’t go for a walk? How do you find the motivation to leave your room when there’s nothing to leave it for?
We’ve been trying to listen to wise, thoughtful people who are willing to be honest about how hard it is. We’ve been trying to find our own ways of coping. And so we have some things to suggest that we hope will help.
(We're most especially in debt to our amazing friend Dr Kate Middleton - who is part of the team who advises and supports us at Selfharm UK - who shared these tips recently on the Youthscape podcast. You can find loads more of her wisdom on the Mind and Soul Foundation website).
1. Find routine.
All your usual routines might have disappeared in a puff of smoke, but anything you can do to bring some routine back into your life is going to help your mental well-being. When we're stressed out (which we ALL are right now, whether we know it or not) we need some predictability to calm us down. Even if it's just a time you get up, a time you eat, a time you do some working, a time you walk the dog.
2. Express your negative emotions.
Frustration. Anxiety. Loss.
We're all facing them. They might surprise you in the middle of the night, or wrap themselves around you all morning. Ignoring them makes them worse. So does feeling guilty about them. You're allowed to feel all of them.
We need to express them. Journal. Talk to someone. Paint. Draw. Don't lock them up inside.
3. Pursue the good stuff.
There is still good stuff around. Projects or work we can be part of. Encouraging someone else. Writing a nice email. It doesn't have to be something enormous or world-changing, but looking for positive things you can do will help.
Someone this week told me they were creating their own set of playing cards. Someone else is knitting. Someone else is writing cards for their friends. What could it be for you?
4. Get out whenever you can.
Yep, it's only allowed once a day, and not if you're in isolation. But anything we can do to get into the sunshine and breathe in some fresh air is going to do our mind and soul some good.
5. Allow yourself alone time.
It might be difficult if you're locked up inside with your family. But we all need it. Time to process. Time to switch off. Time to escape. Time to regroup.
So that's what we have for you right now. Go easy on yourselves, and keep washing your hands.
If you need some extra support right now, it might be a great time to try out Alumina, our free online support groups for 14-19s struggling with self-harm.
Why kindness matters
It's Mental Health Awareness week 2020 and the theme is Kindness Matters! So here's our thoughts on why.